Pop-up restaurants are a huge part of the the food scene in San Francisco today: they give diners the opportunity to try out new cuisine and allow chefs a more affordable way to demonstrate their skills than with a brick-and-mortar location.
But the difficulty of pop-ups is that they often run at off hours, and can be pretty inconsistent. Enter FoodLab, a part of A Temporary Offering, which provides an affordable commissary kitchen to budding chefs.
FoodLab was created by Mark Walker, Matt Cohen and Gabriel Cole. “We came to the realization that there’s no infrastructure for this sort of thing [a shared-use commercial kitchen],” says Mark. The new mid-Market space is a preview of a 20,000 square foot location the team plans to open later in the year. Marks says the kitchen offers chefs the opportunity to serve food at “on” hours, and gives diners a sense of consistency because there is a set calendar. Lunch is being offered five days a week, with dinner served four to six days a week. Diners can taste Puerto Rican cuisine from Sol Food (an extension of the San Rafael location), sandwiches from Southern Sandwich Co., chicken and waffle sandwiches from Soul Groove, and more.
The clean, licensed kitchen at FoodLab allows food start ups a place to prepare their dishes in the city of San Francisco, which goes a long way with inspectors. It also provides a sense of community to the folks who use the space which allows for timely feedback and support. Mark says the chefs help each other find vendors for products and with other business advice.
One of the coolest things about FoodLab is that a variety of cuisines appear on the menu. “There are a lot of visions coming through,” says Mark, nodding at the minimalist decor of the space. No one is taking over; everyone gets their time to cook and showcase their creations.
FoodLab is an example of the anticipated growth and development of the mid-Market neighborhood. “I think it’s ground zero for what’s happening [in the neighborhood],” says Mark. With soon-t0-be neighbors Twitter and other restaurants, this may just be the kick-start the area needs.
1106 Market Street, San Francisco; Tel. 415.834.5348
Image courtesy of Bridget Dixon